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Keep Cents and Nickels Longer
October 05, 2011

The recent slide in the price of gold and silver was the headline making face of a general slide in commodity prices.

If you haven’t looked lately, the value of the metal in a pre-1982 95-percent copper cent is now just over 2 cents at .0206206, according to

It wasn’t so many weeks ago the value of the metal in the coin was 3 cents.

Nickel has also followed copper lower and that has brought the value of the metal in the 75-percent copper, 25-percent nickel 5-cent to under face value at .0493789.

I know there are a lot of people who are saving nickels in the expectation that they can make a profit someday by selling them for far more than face value. That day seems far off at the moment.

Future writers will probably analyze these small hoards as they come back either into circulation and end up as circulation finds prizes, or they do get sold for a profit many years from now.

How this plays out depends on how the prices of metals behave going forward.

The metallic value of the copper-plated zinc cent, which was introduced in 1982, is less than half a cent at .0049725, but because the U.S. Mint’s overhead is so high the cost of production is approaching 2 cents.

It would help if the Mint could crank up the volume of output by two or three or four times the current level. That would cut the overhead costs ascribed to each coin, but such is not in the cards.

None of this will likely affect the contents of the report to Congress the Mint must deliver in 2013, but it could dull the sense of urgency once Congress gets it.

High metallic values and/or active hoarding by the public does wonders to convince Congress to act.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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